Ex-engineer sues Google, saying he was fired for condemning diversity memo

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Ex-engineer sues Google, saying he was fired for condemning diversity memo” was written by Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Thursday 22nd February 2018 07.23 Asia/Kolkata

A former Google engineer has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was fired for speaking out against James Damore’s controversial memo about gender, the latest development in a litigious battle over diversity and speech at the technology company.

Tim Chevalier, a site reliability engineer who worked for Google until November 2017, sued his former employer in California state court on Wednesday. Chevalier, who identifies as queer, disabled and transgender, alleges that Google terminated him over posts he made on internal forums advocating for diversity at Google and criticizing Damore.

Damore was fired for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” in August 2017 after the memo, in which he posited that psychological differences between men and women explain the gaping gender imbalance at Google, was leaked and went viral. Damore’s firing became a flashpoint for conservatives, and in January he filed a class action suit alleging that Google discriminates against white male conservatives.

The Damore lawsuit included nearly 100 pages of screen shots of internal communications at Google which the suit alleged demonstrated widespread hostility against conservative viewpoints.

The Chevalier lawsuit offers a different spin on the debates that played out on Google’s internal email lists and message boards, which the attorney David Lowe described in a statement as “a cesspool of bullying and harassment”. Google failed to prevent employees from using the internal platforms to discriminate against marginalized groups, the suit alleges, allowing Google employees to call LGBT co-workers “immoral” and post statements such as:“If we have fewer Black and Latin@ people here, doesn’t that mean they’re not as good?”

Chevalier regularly participated in these internal discussions, the lawsuit states, “calling out discrimination and harassment for what it was and asking his peers to reflect on perspectives different from their own”.

“It is a cruel irony that Google attempted to justify firing me by claiming that my social networking posts showed bias against my harassers,” Chevalier said in a statement. “The anti-discrimination laws are meant to protect marginalized and underrepresented groups – not those who attack them.”

In an emailed statement, Google defended its termination of Chevalier.

“An important part of our culture is lively debate. But like any workplace, that doesn’t mean anything goes,” a spokeswoman, Gina Scigliano, said. “The overwhelming majority of our employees communicate in a way that is consistent with our policies. But when an employee does not, it is something we must take seriously. We always make our decision without any regard to the employee’s political views.”

The suit alleges that Chevalier was chastised by his manager for spending too much time on “social activism” and by human resources for a blogpost he wrote criticizing the Damore memo as “misogynistic”. According to the suit, Google objected to Chevalier’s use of the phrase “white boys” in his blogpost because it “could be perceived as a generalization about race and gender”.

Chevalier “learned that Google defines appropriate workplace speech by the standard of what someone with a cisgender, heterosexual, white, male, upper-middle-class background would say,” the suit states. “In truth, Google’s promise to allow its employees to freely speak their minds only apples to people who represent the majority viewpoint and use the majority’s rhetoric.”

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Ex-engineer sues Google, saying he was fired for condemning diversity memo - NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).